Tears, tantrums and an alarming wave of separation anxiety.
This was just the vibe coming from the parents as the children boarded the bus.
This morning my eldest went on school camp. Max is 8 and he is in year 3. It seems very young for 2 nights away but I guess the school knows what it is doing. He is super excited.
Preparation started weeks ago. Lists were drawn up. Requests were made. Sleeping arrangements were discussed. It would appear that the assorted collection of rucksacks and bags we already have were not good enough. So mum being mum decided he had to have a new one.
As the big day drew closer Max asked only for 2 things. New pyjamas and a haircut. I know how young boys’ minds work and he will be thinking of only 2 things. 1) hanging out with his mates 2) showing off to the girls. Apparently to do the latter you need nice pyjamas and a haircut.
Mum was tasked with both missions. Mission 1. Pyjamas. Never has a boy wanted to go shopping with his mum more so than Max did for these pyjamas. Mum herself was super excited that Max actually wanted to go shopping with her. It was a match made in pyjama heaven. The mission was successfully completed weeks ago. The haircut task could only be completed within days of the trip. Mum ran out of time. So it was left to me on his last day to collect him from school and take him for a haircut.
How hard could that be?
Not hard at all.
Had I remembered.
The scream at 8pm that evening reminded me.
As I entered Max’s room his eyes, welling up, looked up at me like a lost puppy.
“dad….you didn’t take me to get my hair cut……”
If there was ever a time to dig myself out a hole. Now was that time. I looked at Max and in the seconds between that gaze and my mouth opening I went through a hundred scenarios.
Finally I looked at him square in the eyes and with my hands on my hips, chest expanded, as superhero music played in the back of my head, I said in a deep booming voice.
“My son. I (dramatic pause)……will cut your hair.”
As a beam of light shone down on me from the heavens and basked me in glory while angels sang around me I couldn’t help catch my wife giving me a dirty look. The shining light dissipated into a black hole as I was reminded that I was not infact a hairdresser.
But hey, how hard can it be.
“what’s the worst that can happen “ I said– “he could end up looking like Kojak?”
“who loves ya baby” I smiled
She didn’t get the reference. I moved on.
I took out the scissors and a comb. We brought a chair into the bathroom. To set the mood I offered him a drink and a biscuit. I did not offer him any of the magazines I had in my bathroom.
I felt the pressure. Zak and my wife were in the bathroom watching my every move. I started slow, cautious, respectful…..until they got bored and left.
Then I started slashing and chopping. Pretending I was Vidal Sasoon. In a symphony of scissor snaps and comb-throughs the hair fluttered to the ground in a display of flamboyant brilliance.
I stood back, fluffed and primped until I was satisfied. Max now restless and fed up with my increasingly poor banter was ready for the reveal. I called in the family.
I turned him around and presented him to the mirror. We held our collective breath.
He turned to one side. Then the other. He strained as he tried to see the back. He looked at me.
He loved it.
In a rapturous round of applause I took a bow. The applause was all in my head. But Max was happy. He went to bed happy and he woke up happy. Now it was time for camp.
As we waited for the bus you would have been forgiven for thinking they had all snorted lines of sugar. They were high with excitement. Testosterone and adrenalin pumping through their little bodies. The emotions too much for some.
I watched other children pushing their parents away as they tried to kiss them good bye. But I was confident that Max would wrap his arms around me, kiss me on the cheek, tell me he loves me and say goodbye.
In reality I was lucky to catch him as he shot past me to jump on the bus. I swooped in for the goodbye kiss just as he was about to board and ended up kissing a hand that came up to meet my pouting lips.
And then he was gone.
I watched him walk to the back of the bus and sit with friends. He managed a wave goodbye as the bus pulled out.
There were no tears. Just flashbacks to the days when I too went on camp. And the hope that the memories I have of my times away will be just as good for him on his new adventure.